While we were away these last two days I noticed whenever I peeked into the bluebird nest on my phone I was only seeing the mother feeding the nestlings. The second brood (from a new pair,) now about six days old, looked frail and shaky, hardly able to keep their heads lifted, but still cried out to be fed. I kept checking any time I had cell service and my heart began the slow plunge into my expected sorrow. I’d seen this scenario before. Something had happened to the father. The male was gone. And I can’t help but feel we’re on another path to heartbreak.
Two season ago, after (my all-time favorite) male suddenly vanished, the female wore herself out trying to feed her offspring alone and ultimately was unable to provide enough for all. Which is why I suspect that, like last time, one or more of these five sibling bluebirds will not survive and I fully understand there’s nothing I can do about it, except remove any once they pass in the hope of saving the living. Last time we encountered this I didn’t have a nest cam in place, it was swarming flies that tipped me off to the tragedy. Back then I had a clean spare empty nest (that I’d retrieved from another birdhouse that was never used) and used it replace the original one that was, by the time we intervened, too touched by death for my comfort. I replaced the nest with the spare and tucked the one surviving nestling into it with all the good juju we could send it. That baby survived and ultimately fledged; the others, we buried in a special spot, our hearts heavy.
And, just as in that previous season, I caught glimpse of a male yesterday evening which lifted my hopes that the father was okay, until I realized it was not the father at all, but a new male eager to occupy this nest and mate with this female. I’m trying to not resent him for horning in and for not offering help in keeping this brood alive as a stepparent. I’m trying to not resent him the same way I tried to not resent his predecessor, the now-missing male, after he, a month ago, battered the previous one-legged father and claimed this nest box as his. I’m reminded that, if karma exists, if offers no comfort. It never does.
So now, we wait. I have no idea for how long. But we all wait while we witness and honor the possibly truncated lives of these little beings. I can’t help but wonder, does the mother know? You would not know by her efforts that she thinks she could fail. Is she still in survival mode trying to save them all? Or will she choose who she feeds to increase the odds of any single survivor? My heart collapses under the weight of these questions and I have to push them out of my mind. Aware, once again, that nature answers to no one.